“Letter from the Netherlands” (Malmö, 1945)

Letter from the Netherlands

A letter from the Netherlands, a joy to see it come
It helps me to forget my pain, I wonder who it’s from
At night I lie in bed and think, perhaps there will be mail
To free me from my loneliness, and lift this murky veil
A letter from the Netherlands, my own dear mother’s hand
A sunbeam in the darkness, so wonderful and grand
That is what I need, a greeting from my homeland,
Ties no one can sever, that close-knit loyal band.

Do you know what it’s like to be locked up
In a cell, or a camp or behind barbed wire
What’s the point you might wonder
What is meant by these atrocities.
Toil and slavery, endless work, to captivity consigned
Hunger, darkness, exhaustion, fatigue, worn out every day
Then deep from within a longing grows for the one you left behind
So let there be a letter from her, that is what you pray

Days fly by like hours and the world is burning still
What has become of my dearest friends, the friends I miss so much
Some lost to typhoid, others murdered, slaughtered, killed at will
I can only guess when my day will come, when I will feel death’s touch
The rules are stern, the guards so mean, the mail cruelly withheld
A blatant insult to international law, for none of us upheld
Despite all this, my thoughts retain but one ambitious goal
A message, yes, a message, no message is too small

After three long years in this dire hell my joy returns anew
On a sultry night in spring, unexpected by one and all
The struggle is abandoned out of the blue
Far, far away from the Netherlands this time of bliss drew near
Thin, emaciated, grimy, dirty, my eyes were filled with fear,
A silent prayer stole heavenward on this golden hour in spring
For my mother and my cherished land, the land to which I cling

A letter from the Netherlands
The letter came, it finally came, but in a stranger’s hand
As I sat on my bed at night, yes then the mail arrived
With news that left me without doubt, no single doubt survived
That letter from the Netherlands was not in my mother’s hand
A shiver ran through my every limb
I read and read until the writing was a haze
Greetings from the Netherlands, but not in my mother’s hand
Why I still miss her so much, I still can’t understand.